Search This Blog

Subscribe to Let's Talk Business!

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm fussy

Just a few things I'm fussy about:

Espresso - You can't get a good espresso in Hawaii. Even the new place that made such a big deal about their machine that's the only one on the island; blah. I haven't been to Italy, so can't comment about espresso there, so my Gold Standard is The Steps of Rome Cafe in San Francisco. Excellent!

Coffee - Not as fussy as about espresso, but still have high standards. I use a French Press at home. 'Nuff said.

Margaritas - I can't drink margaritas anymore, except for the ones I make. Souza Commemerativo tequila, Contreau, fresh squeezed limes. On the rocks. No slushies for me.

Beer - I could go on for hours about this one. I have to have high-quality. Micro brews, assorted imports, and traveling to England, Wales, and Scotland for pub brews. Haven't been to Germany or Belgium yet.

Cotton shirts - Has to be 100% cotton. Same for undies.

Customer Service - I expect nothing but excellence. I'm usually disappointed.

Efficiency - I can't stand things that don't work well.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

On the radio

I'm going to be on the radio. Movin' in to the big time, yeah. Actually, I'm going to be a guest, in a short, ~ 5 to 7 minute segment, on ThinkTech Hawaii on Hawaii Public Radio (on January 2nd '08). Host Jay Fidel and other guests will be talking about blogging. As shameless self-promotion, I sent Jay an email saying that if he's going to talk about blogging, he should check out my blog and mention it. And now I'm going to be a guest. Woo Hoo!

I'm a big fan of public radio, and my wife and I are members of HPR. I listen to ThinkTech every week, and had a great time at their anniversary parties the past two years. Jay's a great host. I miss former co-host Lauri Akau, though.

If you're in Hawaii, you can listen to the show on Wednesday's at 5:00 pm on KIPO, 89.3 FM. You can also listen live on the internet from the HPR website. Don't miss it: Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 5:00 pm Hawaii Standard Time (7:00 pm Pacific Time, 10:00 pm Eastern Time). If you miss it live, check the ThinkTech website for a downloadable version.

SCORE Fundraising Event

I had a great time at the SCORE of Hawaii fundraiser last night. SCORE, for those of you who don't know, is a nationwide, non-profit, organization that offers free counseling to small businesses and startups. I'm a volunteer, but I'm not doing counseling yet. I'm working on the Volunteer Operations Committee, working on improving the training of new volunteers and developing some informational materials for potential recruits.

The event was an informal networking get-together, co-sponsored by several organizations. Thanks to the hosts and sponsors; Social Wahines (wahine is the Hawaiian word for woman, or women), a women's professional networking organization, Pacific Edge magazine, and Accents Gallery. I met several interesting people and visited with some colleagues. I enjoy networking events and meeting people, though I haven't always been comfortable in these situations. I've learned how to socialize from my APICS buddy's, Frank and Ken primarily. Frank is the master. I once left him alone for about 2 minutes, and when I got back to the table (we had dinner and a beer) he was deep in conversation with the people at the next table, like he'd known them for twenty years. I've still got a lot to learn.

When at an event, never pass up the chance to introduce yourself to whoever is standing next to you. I said hello to the woman standing next to me at one point, and it turns out (this is such a small island) that she works with one gentleman I know and the husband of another woman I know.

Here's a picture of me and Keith, another SCORE volunteer, at last night's event. Thanks to Thi at the harris consultancy (no capitalization on purpose) for the photo. She did a great job of acting as photographer and was also very interesting to talk with.

(that's me on the left)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The answer is "Yes"; the question is...

I can’t stand the suspense

Will Brian Ashton remain as coach of the England rugby team? Who knows? Apparently he was hired on a one-year contract with the only expectation being “we’ll see how we’re feeling next year.” I guess, instead of an actual contract, an agreement was hashed out over beers in a pub. “We don’t know what we want out of you. Even if you win every game, children toss rose petals at your feet, and you’re knighted by the Queen, we won’t know if you’ll be reappointed until we wake up on the last day of your contract and see what kind of mood we’re in.”

Is that any way to run a business? Not give one of the most important people in your organization clear expectations? Not commit to someone who you expect to commit every once of energy to you? When your organization is struggling and you bring in someone to turn it around, you don’t expect results immediately. And you certainly don’t expect fantastic results without giving the leader the authority to do what they need to do to achieve those results. Combine not giving clear expectations and not giving the proper authority, and it’s a wonder anyone would take the job in the first place.

Professional sports is an odd business. But it is a business and should be run like one. That means that plans should be made, goals should be defined, and the people involved should be given clear expectations. And when those expectations are made, the people must be given the authority and the resources they need so they can meet them. Expect a turnaround? By when, and what do you need to do it?

What does England rugby want? What are their expectations? To win every game? That’s not realistic, so what winning percentage is realistic? Define it. If winning percentage isn’t important, but winning the Six Nations tournament or the World Cup is, say it. Don’t diddle around and grumble afterwards if you hadn’t defined your expectations beforehand. What does your organization want? 100% on-time delivery, 100% satisfied customers, 100% growth of profits? What’s realistic? Define it, then give your CEO the authority and the resources they need to achieve your defined goals. Don’t just hire someone and wait a year to see what kind of mood you’re in to decide if they stay or go.

As for England rugby, make a decision. Define the expectations for the head coach. Make a commitment equal to the commitment you expect of the coach, meaning a multi-year contract at least. Provide the coach the resources they need, such as adequate time for the players to train and practice together, and management and administrative support. Communicate your long-term strategic plans, and develop and utilize an effective performance measurement system.

Don't forget to Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger

Sunday, December 16, 2007

How to run a business, part XXL

This is the kind of headline that just screams out to be read; “Craft brewers becoming more business savvy.” Apparently, craft brewers, the “official” name for small, high quality beer brewers, like your local brew pubs and microbreweries, have no business sense and they suddenly just realized that. These craft brews are the fastest growing segment of the beer market, but it seems it’s just been dumb luck and pretty labels that attract ig’nernt customers. Of course, this article also describes Budweiser, Coors Lite, and Miller as premium beers. Premium has a different definition where I come from. But I digress…

It’s safe to bet that the successful craft brewers have a fair amount of business savvy. While craft brews have become popular because of their quality and variety, you don’t stay in business more than a couple of years without knowing a bit about running a business. That being said, it seems that the craft brewing industry as a whole has begun to realize what a lot of small business fail to realize (and some big ones) – it takes more than a quality product to succeed in today’s marketplace.

The article (from the Associated Press, printed in the Honolulu Star Bulletin) states that many craft brewers are starting to bring in business talent, to compliment their technical and brewing talent. Even with the market for craft brews growing, due in large part to more quality driven and adventurous consumers (drinkers?), there’s a lot of competition out there and you have to compete on more than quality. The beer industry is just like every other industry, in that quality doesn’t win business; it just lets you in the game. Once you’re in the game, you’ve got to back up your promises. Marketing and sales play an important role, but it’s Operations that pays the bills and allows you to grow and succeed.

Operations delivers. Operations delivers on the promises that are made by marketing. Producing a consistent product that meets specifications and expectations, delivering when and where the customer wants it, and doing it at a cost that earns a profit is what Operations does.

Brining in business expertise, in the marketing and sales, and finance and accounting areas, as well as in operations, is a wise move by any organization. Effective processes that allow for consistent quality and exceptional service is what operations is all about, and what every organization should strive for. Make promises, then deliver on them, and you’ll be on your way to success, and profits.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Building your brand

Following up on my previous post here, where at the end I mentioned developing your brand image.

Branding, or developing your brand, is generally regarded as a marketing activity. But I’m an Operations guy, so what am I doing talking about developing your brand. Well, I’ll tell you. Marketing plays an important role in developing your brand, but their role is primarily in advertising the brand. The real work in branding is done by operations. Your brand image is a promise; meaning, this is what you’re going to get and what you should expect. Operations delivers on that promise. Operations does the work that gives you what you want and what you expect. Operations does the planning, gathers the resources, manages and utilizes those resources, and delivers the product or service. You won’t have a brand if you can’t deliver. You can advertise and tell people about your products and services all you want, but if your customers can’t get what they want, when they want it, at a price that’s acceptable, you don’t have a brand, you just have a name.

A strong brand commands a premium price. Think Starbucks. You can get a cup of coffee many places, but people are willing to pay a premium for the Starbucks brand. In my previous post I was talking about membership in organizations. An organization with a strong brand means people want to belong. The price of membership can be set at a premium price, not at a lower price where you’re competing with other organizations based on price. And more people will want to become members just to be associated with that brand. But to be a strong brand, you have to deliver. Whatever it is your organization provides, you have to be the best at providing it. If you’re a service provider of some sort, like a non-profit that helps people who need help, you have to be able to provide that service better than anyone else. That means gathering resources, whether it’s money or donations, processing any paperwork, recognizing donors, putting those resources to work, and then providing the goods or services to your intended recipients. If your brand is recognized for being the best at what you do, people will want to join you, will want to take part. If you’re a networking organization, you have to be the best at providing networking opportunities to your members. Being the best builds your brand, and people will want to be a part of your organization. Being the best happens through excellence in operations.

If you’re a rugby club, or other rugby organization, like USA Rugby, you have to be the best rugby organization. That doesn’t necessarily mean just winning all your games. You can have a strong brand and not be the best team in the world (or your local area). Winning games is only part of what makes up your brand image. The organization behind the team, and the people behind the organization, are the real heart of your brand. Is your club the one that people want to be part of? Are you the best run organization? If you’re not, you should be, and can be. What makes a good organization? It’s being good at everything it takes to field a team and take care of them. Start at the beginning. You have to be able to provide information for prospective club members, whether they’re players or supporters. Provide all the information they want, and keep the lines of communication open. Nothing turns people off faster than not being able to find out things they want to know. Then you have to process new members. Whether they’re players or volunteers, you need to gather and store all the information you need about them. You need to assign them the proper role in the organization. New players need to know when and where practice is held, what equipment is needed, and what is expected of them. Volunteers need to know what duties they’re assigned, where they need to be, and what is expected of them. Fans want to be pampered, not just given a seat they paid for. That means making them fell welcome and taking care of their needs (clean bathrooms?).

The players and team, being the core of a rugby club, are the core of the brand. Winning games is great, but being part of a great organization is even better. Are practices structured and controlled? Are they planned in advance, with the player’s abilities and fitness levels taken into account? Are travel plans arranged in advance? Are selections made and communicated in advance of games? Is player’s health and fitness monitored? Is everyone made to feel welcomed, even new players and not as talented players? And is everyone having fun?? A great organization will build a strong brand. Winning games will help, but the real reason people will want to join your club is the strength of the organization behind the team, and the strength of the brand that goes with it.

Don't forget to Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger, the fund is growing.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The value of membership

One of the organizations I belong to is embroiled in controversy surrounding a proposed dues increase. One of the questions being asked is whether the value that a member receives is worth the dues paid, either current or proposed. That’s a good question, but it is a personal one. Something that is valuable to me might not be at all valuable to you. As a proponent of professional organizations, and a member of a number of different organizations, this is something I have to ask myself frequently. It’s a question every rugby player has to ask themselves too, as most clubs charge dues and USA Rugby requires membership to participate in sanctioned events (which are most rugby events).

One thing that membership usually brings is access. Members have access to events and information that is not available to non-members, and allows members to participate or hold positions that non-members cannot. The question is whether that access is worth what you pay in dues. Many organizations offer the same products and services to both members and non-members. The difference is usually the price that is paid; members receive a discount while non-members do not. If the price difference is greater than the cost of membership, many people will become members to receive the discount, but not all. For any number of reasons, some people will not become members to receive the discount. That begs the question of what membership means. If both members and non-members have access to the same things, membership is really meaningless. For all intents and purposes, the organization is simply a business, where some people get a discount and some don’t. No different than clipping coupons. Some people clip coupons and get a discount, and some don’t.

One reason that people join organizations is to be part of something, something that not everyone can be a part of. There is a feeling of exclusivity to it. That provides value to many people, often great value. Just look at country club memberships, which charge tens of thousands of dollars (or more) as membership fees, on top of thousands of dollars in annual dues. But exclusivity doesn’t have to involve lots of money. USA Rugby dues are only $35 per year. The dues to the organizations I belong to range from about $100 to $200 per year. If the benefits I receive, including the intangible benefit of belonging, don’t provide value equal to the dues, I don’t renew my membership. I’ll have to evaluate whether the dues of that organization considering an increase is worth continuing my membership. We’ll see.

As for USA Rugby, I joined recently (or rejoined) after not being a member since 1998, the last time I played. Since getting back into rugby after the World Cup I haven’t played, haven’t even been to a practice, don’t coach, and am not a referee. So why did I join? Well, I found my boots, so I might go to practice and try to pick up a game. Or I might try to find someone who needs a coach. Or I might try ref’ing (after the referee clinic, of course). Or I might just watch and blog, or help out with administration. What I will be though, is a member of an exclusive group – USA Rugby. That’s not much, anybody can join. I joined pretty much just to pay the dues as a show of support.

But why can’t those USA Rugby dues offer a greater feeling of pride and exclusivity? Just because anybody can join doesn’t mean they will. That membership card (although I haven’t received any card, or any other acknowledgement besides my receipt), if marketed properly, could be a real source of pride. It could also lead to an increase in membership, and therefore, an increase in revenue for the organization. If the USA Rugby brand was one of pride and value, or the brand of whatever organization you belong to, more people would want to join. They would want to join just to be part of the group, for the pride of it. Other benefits have to be provided, but that pride in the brand is a powerful motivator. Is your club or organization developing your brand so that people want to be a part of it? If not, you should be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Newsletter

I received my first eNewsletter from the United States Rugby Football Foundation. I'm very impressed. They've got some great stuff going on. Got a bunch of events surrounding the USA Sevens tournament in San Diego in February. Will have to come up with a way to support them too. But, I'd really like to see them more integrated with USA Rugby administratively, so we're all moving in the same direction. See the "Scattered - Divided - Leaderless" post below.

Wet Weather

We had a big storm last night. I slept through it. I went outside this morning and saw lots of debris in the driveway and in the road, and thought to myself, "it must have rained hard last night." Driving to work up the Pali Highway and, though it took me awhile, I noticed that there was no traffic. The usually backed up for miles road was car free. Wonder what's going on. They could have at least put up a sign saying the road was closed. Got up to where they had the road blocked off, turned around and went over Likelike Highway. Lots of traffic lights out on the other side of the island. Lots of debris and water on the roads. Big tree taking up my parking space. Finally get some local news on the radio, and find out many schools are closed and power is out in many places. Sun came out for most of the day, and now it's raining again.

“Scattered – Divided - Leaderless”

Elrond tells Gandalf that men are weak because they are “Scattered – Divided – Leaderless”. Does that sound like your organization? Weak, because everyone’s going off in their own direction? Although each individual person, department, or division, may be doing very good things, maybe even some outstanding things, the organization is weak because it lacks a common purpose. A strong organization, a successful organization, moves as one integrated whole.

That’s where I see Hawaii rugby right now. There’s a lot going on in rugby in Hawaii, and there are a lot of people doing some very good things, but it’s scattered – divided – leaderless. There are individual clubs, youth teams, a youth league, and the Union. Each is doing a lot, but they are not integrated and moving as a unified organization towards a common goal. The Union should be the lead administrative body, the core that ties everything together. Everything else flows from that and feeds into that. That’s how the Board of Directors and executive team acts in a business environment. It’s the focal point. That doesn’t mean it is all controlling. What it does is set the direction for the organization and acts as the administrative unit that information is channeled through. It monitors the progress towards defined goals, allocates resources, and keeps everything and everyone on track.

There’s a Union meeting coming up in January. Hopefully, everyone will come together and see that they are stronger when acting as a cohesive unit, and develop a structure that allows them to move forward to everyone’s benefit. Many things can continue as they are, with the addition of funneling information and coordination through the Union governing body. In turn, the Hawaii Union should be acting to support the Territorial Union that it falls under, and that acting in support of USA Rugby, but let’s take small steps first. I’ll help if I can. If your organization isn’t acting as a single cohesive unit, now’s the best time to get started. And I’ll help if I can.

Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger - proceeds donated to USA Rugby

Monday, December 3, 2007


A picture from the past. The New Mexico Tech Pygmy Rugby Club in front of the statue of William Webb Ellis at the Rugby School, during the tour of Wales in 1998 (with a stop in Rugby, England). That's me in the second row, second from left, in the hat.

Adopt-A-Rugger Sales

We've had our first purchases of Adopt-A-Rugger and Hug-A-Rugger merchandise. Proceeds to be donated to USA Rugby total all of $14 so far. Woo Hoo! It's a start. I'll keep you posted as sales pick up.

Some Hawaii Rugby Info

From Hawaii State Rugby Union president:

Hawaii State Rugby Union Calender 2008

January 11th and 12th... 9am-4pm. Rugby clinic for referee certification..... players are welcome. Conducted by Josh Tameifuna,USA Rugby official. Location: TBA

January 15th..... HSRU Meeting.....6pm at 555 North King Street. All clubs reps please attend. Team fees to be collected.


January 26th..... RUGBY SEASON STARTS!

Checkout the new website:

The site will be up by December 4th and we will be posting updated info in the future of the location for the clinic......mahalo!All games at Kapiolani Park.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hawaii Rugby Tournament Results - Day 2

Boy, what a difference a day makes. The rugby today was drastically different from yesterday, a step up. There was some great ball handling, passing, and ball control today. All the games today (three games) were well played, exciting, and fun to watch. The conditions today were also drastically different. Yesterday was grey and overcast, and not too warm. Today was hot and humid. My burnt body can attest to that. I suddenly realized, after game two, that I was burnt and dehydrated. Luckily there was a break between games, so I hydrated and grabbed my umbrella. I took a few minutes in the shade of a tree too. Ahh!

I also have to commend the refs for the tournament. They did an excellent job of keeping things under control, while keeping play flowing. Good work guys! So here's the results:

Game 1:

Hurricanes - 20 vs. Kalihi Raiders - 3

The Hurricanes scored three tries, converting one, and adding a penalty. The Raiders scored one penalty.

Game 2:

Maui Rugby - 15 vs. Tama Sulu Ie - 10

The best game of the tournament. Well played, well fought, and very close. These teams looked nothing like they did yesterday. They must have slept well. Maui scored two tries, converting one, and added a penalty. Tama Sulu Ie scored one try, converted it, and added a penalty. Great work guys!

Game 3 (Championship Game):

Maui Rugby - 0 vs. Hurricanes - 11

Another good game. I don't know how they did it, after each playing a game earlier and the heat hovering on the field like it was. But they played a well fought match. The Hurricanes won the game and the tournament, though, and I think part of that was due to the extra rest they had from playing earlier in the day. The Hurricanes scored one try and two penalties.

So, keep looking here for updates and information on rugby in Hawaii. Aloha.